Today was the last day of the conference--just breakfast and two workshop slots. I went to Debut Authors Talk Publication and Writing Sex Scenes: How Much is Too Much? with Jade Lee (romance), Chris Humphreys (military swashbucklers), Diana Gabaldon (unclassifiable), and, uh, one other person whose name I can't recall. Humphreys was a good sport about being the only guy, and much hilarity was had by all, though the general agreement was that love scenes must serve the plot and that sex is dialogue by other means. Also, Lee stressed that in romance you need to make sure you keep the conflict high (whether between the lovers or through the external plot) immediately following a love scene, lest readers feel like everything is resolved by the couple's passion and love and there's no reason to keep reading.
I feel pretty good about the conference overall. It didn't blow me away the way the Surrey conference did last fall, but maybe that was too much to expect. I think Surrey is an unusually intensive conference, designed for fairly advanced writers. Also, the longer I do this, the less likely I am to be surprised by a workshop at a writers conference. But I think I made some good contacts--not new best friends or anything, but authors I can contact if need be and say, "You may not remember me, but we talked about X at the HNS Conference in Albany." And it was a good refresher in many areas. One thing that stands out is how confident the two big names, Bernard Cornwell and Diana Gabaldon, both are, albeit in different ways reflecting each one's personality. And I'm sure that to a large degree that confidence is born of their success. But when you hear them tell their stories of how they got published, you feel like at least half of it was there from the very beginning. They believed in their stories and in their ability to tell them, and look where they are now. Sure, they're talented writers who had very good ideas, but you could say the same of many authors who aren't a fraction as well-known and well-published.
Most of the time, I'm plenty confident about my writing. The past few months I've gone through a doubting, tentative phase, and I want to move beyond that. Because I'm a damn good storyteller with a fine voice, too, and someday the world will know it. I'm too stubborn to give up before I've proven it.